Stephen’s Speech: A Case Study In Rhetoric And Biblical Inerrancy -- By: Rex A. Koivisto

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 20:4 (Dec 1977)
Article: Stephen’s Speech: A Case Study In Rhetoric And Biblical Inerrancy
Author: Rex A. Koivisto


Stephen’s Speech: A Case Study In
Rhetoric And Biblical Inerrancy

Rex A. Koivisto*

The speech delivered by Stephen before the Jerusalem Sanhedrin bristles with perplexing problems for any who would approach it exe-getically. Some have concluded that its lengthy character forms a foreign intrusion into the well-balanced progression of Acts.1 Others, more favorable to the present speech text, have puzzled over the apparent divergency between the text and the judicial allegations it was supposed to have addressed.2 Although these problems prove quite real, the speech of Stephen empties even a larger basket of difficulties on the heads of those who posit a factually inerrant text of Scripture, for this speech alone contains approximately fifteen apparent historical inaccuracies and other blunders.3

These problems in the speech have coaxed many conservatives into redefining the relationship of inerrancy to the speech as a unit, even though a number of those same scholars have carefully displayed solutions for the other apparent inaccuracies in Scripture. Their approach, followed by an expanding number of expositors and apologists, is to relegate the content of the speech to the realm of “allowable errancy,” while preserving actual inerrancy only for Luke’s accuracy in recording the speech.4

This approach, posit many of its adherents, preserves the doctrine of factual inerrancy by limiting the inerrancy claim only to Luke’s scrupulously accurate record of what Stephen had said before the Sanhedrin. The speech may thus be admitted as having as many errors as Stephen was inclined to commit, for inerrancy extended not to Stephen, but only to Luke as an author of Scripture.

The implications for this kind of approach to the difficulty are large, for by placing Stephen’s speech on the shelf of secondary authority these scholars have removed that speech from the pool of revelational data suitable for constructing Biblical history and systematic theology. The data gleaned by theologians from the speech as revela-

*Rex Koivisto has a master’s degree from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

tional support for specific doctrines, such as the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (drawn from 7:22),5 the aseity of God (7:25),You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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